Informal meeting between
the President of the General Assembly and civil society organizations
2 August 2001
Purpose of the Meeting
1. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss
a) possible ways of enhancing the interaction between the General Assembly (particularly the President of the General Assembly) and civil society organizations and
b) to exchange views on the report of the Secretary-General on Prevention of Armed Conflict (A/55/985-S/2001/574/Corr.1).
Agenda item 1: Enhancing interaction between the GA and civil society organizations
2. The President of the General Assembly reminded participants of the UN Civil Society Outreach Symposium held from 30 May-1 June 2001 which was convened to better understand the scope of strengthening the partnership between the UN and civil society as called for in the Millennium Declaration. He stressed that increased interaction between the UN and civil society was a sine qua non for fulfilling the goals set out in the Declaration.
3. With regard to increased interaction between the General Assembly and civil society, participants offered the following main observations and suggestions:
· In order to sustain the momentum created by the current President of the General Assembly on this issue, it is important to ensure that the institutional memory of his office is carried over to future Presidents of the General Assembly. The Secretariat has an important role to play in this regard.
· With a view to ensuring a smooth transition between Presidents and
to enhancing consistency of the work of the General Assembly, the idea of "troika-meetings"
between the previous, current and following Presidents of the General Assembly
should be explored further.
· There is a need to discuss innovative options for reforming the working relationship between civil society organizations and the General Assembly both in terms of their official status as well as meeting formulas (semi-formal or formal). One approach would be to learn from the experience of other UN organs such as the Security Council. One question in this regard is whether a mechanism similar to the Arria formula could be used by the General Assembly.
· The President of the General Assembly could convene regular meetings with civil society organizations on thematic issues. One of the key questions in this regard is what criteria should guide the representation of such organizations.
· There is no established UN mechanism for receiving information and analysis produced by civil society organizations. It should be explored whether such a mechanism should be established.
Agenda item 2: Report of the Secretary-General on Prevention of Armed Conflict
4. The President of the General Assembly informed the meeting that the General Assembly had adopted a procedural resolution (A/55/L.91) on the report of the Secretary-General on Prevention of Armed Conflict without a vote on Wednesday, 1 August. The resolution calls on Governments, regional and subregional organizations, relevant organs, organizations and bodies of the UN system to consider the report and inform the General Assembly, preferably during the fifty-sixth session, of their views in this regard. It also invites relevant civil society actors to consider the report and the recommendations addressed to them therein. The President emphasised that this resolution gave civil society organizations a good opportunity to consider their role in conflict prevention as well as their interaction with the United Nations in this field.
5. It was suggested that the follow-up to the report should focus on a) applying the Secretary-General's recommendations to specific conflict situations; b) increasing the dialogue between South and North on conflict prevention; and c) enhancing the interaction within the UN system on the intersecting structural issues relating to conflict prevention (e.g. peacebuilding, development, human rights, disarmament).
6. It was also suggested that the next President of the General Assembly should consider convening an open forum with relevant civil society organizations on conflict prevention. In preparation for such a meeting, NGOs and other civil society actors could send reports to the President of the General Assembly on their activities in this field.
7. Another participant pointed out that the International Criminal Court once established would serve as a powerful deterrent for potential violators of human rights and the prohibition of aggression and thus as an important conflict prevention mechanism. He suggested that if the Security Council was either unwilling or unable to act in the face of a crime of aggression, the General Assembly should consider requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice to determine whether a crime of aggression has occurred. In the same context, the President of the General Assembly should also consider organizing hearings with relevant NGOs to listen to their views on such situations.